The Facebook Files: What Was Revealed and All We Know So Far
Recently, Facebook has faced a crisis. They experienced controversies before, but this time, internal information has been released, making the scandal much more threatening.
Frances Haugen was a former product manager at Facebook. Before leaving the company, she took with her copies of numerous confidential documents which came to be known as the “Facebook Files” (Clayton, 2021). Haugen stated that the company “intentionally hides vital information from the public” and claimed that they prioritize profit over the safety of the users (Allyn, 2021).
First among the information revealed through the files was the inconsistent cross-checking system (XCheck). According to the Wall Street Journal (2021), XCheck placed a different set of rules managing the accounts of high-profile users such as celebrities, making it unfair for regular users.
Secondly, the files showed that Facebook took little to no action against the harmful content on the platform. The employees constantly flagged posts about human trafficking and drug manufacturers and suppliers, but despite being well aware of this problem, the company did not do much until they were threatened by Apple saying that their products would be removed from the App Store (BBC, 2021). The Wall Street Journal (2021) revealed that only 13% of their work related to handling misinformation was for foreign users despite having a massive impact on even the politics of foreign countries.
Thirdly, Facebook has apparently been dealing with a lawsuit from shareholders (BBC, 2021). The article shared that the group’s claim was that the company’s payment for the resolving of the “Cambridge Analytica data scandal” reached as high as $5 billion because the main goal was to shield Mark Zuckerberg.
Lastly, it has been revealed that Facebook discovered the negative impact Instagram has on the mental health of its users; however, they decided to keep it from the public and the government (BBC, 2021). According to the Wall Street Journal (2021), Instagram makes body issues worse for one in three teenage girls. Moreover, the study showed that teenagers blamed the social media platform for increased levels of anxiety and depression.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerburg, fired back at the allegations and said, “At the heart of these accusations is this idea that we prioritize profit over safety and wellbeing. That’s just not true. Many of the claims don’t make any sense. We care deeply about issues like safety, wellbeing, and mental health. It’s difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives.” (Milmo, 2021).
Nowadays, we rely on social media for everything: communication, entertainment, school, and work. Many times, it can be hard to determine what is real and what is fake from the flood of posts we see every day. Social media has the power to change one’s perceptions and beliefs about the world; thus, we should consume media responsibly.
Here are tips to do just that:
Check if the source is reliable by looking at their “About Us” page and credentials (Gray, 2017).
Search to see how legitimate news sites are, but remember that seeing posts with the same content does not ensure their credibility as fake news spreads like wildfire too (Gray, 2017).
Assess your relationship with social media and how it is impacting your mental health (Duffy, 2019).
Set time limits for the apps that have negative effects on your wellbeing (Duffy, 2019).
Disable notifications to decrease how many times you check the app (Duffy, 2019).
Although we want to be updated about what is going on outside our homes, it is equally important to look after our mental wellbeing to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Therefore, let us learn how to become responsible digital citizens and encourage others to do the same.
Allyn, A. (2021, October 5). Here are 4 key points from the Facebook whistleblower's testimony
on Capitol Hill. NPR.org. https://www.npr.org/2021/10/05/1043377310/facebook-whistleblower-frances-haugen-congress
Clayton, J. (2021, October 4). Frances Haugen: Facebook whistleblower reveals identity. BBC
Duffy, J. (2019, October 7). 5 ways to cut back on social media. PCMAG.
Gray, B. (2017). 10 Tips for Fighting Fake News: How to Fact Check Like a Pro. Welcome to
LexisNexis - Choose Your Path. https://www.lexisnexis.com/pdf/nexis/Nexis-webinar-how-to-fact-check-like-a-pro.pdf
Horwitz, J. (2021, September 13). Facebook says its rules apply to all. Company documents
reveal a secret elite that’s exempt. WSJ. https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-files-xcheck-zuckerberg-elite-rules-11631541353?mod=article_inline
Wakefield, J. (2021, September 15). Facebook under fire over secret teen research. BBC
BBC. (2021, September 24). Facebook files: 5 things leaked documents reveal. BBC News.
The Guardian. (2021, October 6). Mark Zuckerberg hits back at Facebook whistleblower
claims. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/oct/06/mark-zuckerberg-hits-back-at-facebook-whistleblower-frances-haugen-claims